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Judge: Rich landowner may keep public off beach

By Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 07:28 a.m. HST, Oct 27, 2013

HALF MOON BAY, Calif. >> A judge ruled this week that an oceanfront property owner may continue to block public access to a Northern California beach, basing his decision on an unusual set of circumstances dating back to the mid-19th century.

San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Gerald Buchwald ruled that billionaire venture capitalist Vinod Khosla can legally block the only road to Martins Beach, which is a popular surfing spot south of Half Moon Bay. According to Thursday's ruling, beachgoers are still allowed to use the 200-acre beach -- if they can get there from the ocean.


The San Francisco Chronicle reports that a lawyer who filed a lawsuit on behalf of the group Friends of Martins Beach plans to appeal the ruling, arguing that it violates beach access rights under the California Constitution.

Buchwald based his decision on the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which settled the Mexican-American War, and required that the United States recognize Mexican land grants as long as the owner filed a claim. The original owner of the coastal property filed such a claim. The U.S. government challenged his land patent, but the U.S. Supreme Court confirmed his ownership in 1859 -- 14 years before the California Constitution was first drafted.

The decision is the latest blow in a years-long battle between beach lovers and Khosla, the Sun Microsystems Inc. co-founder who bought the property for $37.5 million in 2008. The Chronicle reports that after the sale, a gate was put on the road with a sign that said, "Beach closed, keep out."

Jeffrey Essner, attorney for Martins Beach LLC, said he was gratified by the decision.

"We are very aware of the community concern about the situation, and it is unfortunate that we were forced into the legal process rather than a conversation with the community," Essner said. "The property owner strives to be a constructive member of the community, but it is difficult to have this conversation without the legal clarification on property rights and an acknowledgment of those rights."

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false wrote:
There will be no "good will" for this outcome. Bachi lives on.
on October 27,2013 | 05:43AM
Mythman wrote:
This comment really goes with the DHHL water issues story in this same SA edition. However, the censor would not permit this comment to be included in that thread. Connect the dots yourself - A recent Commissioner, Ray Soon, works for the C&C of Honolulu as Mayor Caldwell's Chief of Staff. When commissioner, Soon wrote an opinion that (1) there are no Indians in Hawaii and (2) there is no Indian land in Hawaii. After serving as Commissioner, Mr Soon went to work for Kamehameha Schools as a communications consultant. Another term for spin doctor. Another recent Commissioner, Micah Kane, is now a trustee of Kamehameha schools. There are no “Indians” in the world this trust lives in, only “Hawaiians”. I wonder if local government has any issues with royal land trust water issues? Here is the actual governing law. Confusion is no excuse for obeying the actual statutory law, regardless of whose ox it gores. 25 CFR 1.4 - State and local regulation of the use of Indian property. § 1.4 State and local regulation of the use of Indian property. (a) Except as provided in paragraph (b) of this section, none of the laws, ordinances, codes, resolutions, rules or other regulations of any State or political subdivision thereof limiting, zoning or otherwise governing, regulating, or controlling the use or development of any real or personal property, including water rights, shall be applicable to any such property leased from or held or used under agreement with and belonging to any Indian or Indian tribe, band, or community that is held in trust by the United States or is subject to a restriction against alienation imposed by the United States. (b) The Secretary of the Interior or his authorized representative may in specific cases or in specific geographic areas adopt or make applicable to Indian lands all or any part of such laws, ordinances, codes, resolutions, rules or other regulations referred to in paragraph (a) of this section as he shall determine to be in the best interest of the Indian owner or owners in achieving the highest and best use of such property. In determining whether, or to what extent, such laws, ordinances, codes, resolutions, rules or other regulations shall be adopted or made applicable, the Secretary or his authorized representative may consult with the Indian owner or owners and may consider the use of, and restrictions or limitations on the use of, other property in the vicinity, and such other factors as he shall deem appropriate. [30 FR 7520, June 9, 1965]
on October 27,2013 | 07:14AM
Slow wrote:
What is the legal definition of Indian? Does it exclude HAwaiians? How about Inuit or others in Alaska?
on October 27,2013 | 09:03AM
hanalei395 wrote:
"Does it exclude Hawaiians?" ................Of course.
on October 27,2013 | 09:13AM
HealthyandHappy wrote:
Dan Inouye made sure Hawaiians are not included in the Federal Governments definition of Native Americans.
on October 27,2013 | 10:45AM
Mythman wrote:
Yet, Dan and company tricked congress into giving the STATE for its "Hawaiians" 12 billion dollars in Native American funding, not a nickle of which actually reach any native Hawaiian who was not also a state employee or a KSBE insider.
on October 27,2013 | 11:27AM
Mythman wrote:
It only "excludes" Hawaiians in the scheme of those who subrogated the actual regulatory law. You know, the ones having billions and billions of dollars while the ones who otherwise might have had something are desperately poor as per the DHHL etc. Smug brasterds.
on October 27,2013 | 11:26AM
Slow wrote:
Does being an attorney mean you must lie? "Beach closed. Keep out" is not what I would deem a conversation with the community. Basic human values are again corrupted by immense wealth. Anyone still wonder what the Occupy movement was about?
on October 27,2013 | 09:00AM
Mythman wrote:
The Occupy movement failed to speak loudly enough - I for one wish it had done so. Instead, MM portrayed it badly.
on October 27,2013 | 11:28AM
Leinanij wrote:
Agreed. America is ready for another revolution against the corrupt wealthy corporations and elitists similar to the French Revolution. It will happen. There are too many of us and only a few hundred of them.
on October 27,2013 | 12:11PM
oahujeff wrote:
I don't get it, is it "his" land or is it "public access"? If he paid for the road, he should be allowed to block access to it. Theoretically, he made his contribution to society by providing computer services or whatever he did. What have the "beach lovers" done for society? I say "theoretically" because he may just be a swindler, who knows. But the law is the law...
on October 27,2013 | 09:23AM
Manoa2 wrote:
That is the question. Is the road a public access, as it has been for years and therefore public, or is it subject to the landowner closing it down? Second, does the California constitutional provision regarding beach access which followed the original grant to the landowner prevail or was the grant itself insufficient to convey the right to block the beach? Did the sovereign give away the right to access when it granted the land eons ago? If it did not the constitutional provision would prevail. I think there are good arguments both ways, but overall, the better case is that the right to access over the road was public before the landowner bought the property and remains so today.
on October 27,2013 | 10:50AM
entrkn wrote:
condemn the easement access road to the beach
on October 27,2013 | 09:32AM
BigErn wrote:
The Great Mahele
on October 27,2013 | 09:45AM
Mythman wrote:
The mahele was an attempt to return some of the lands to the families (clans) Kam First had taken as prize of war where he settled his warriors and his white and Chinese friends.
on October 27,2013 | 11:29AM
Leinanij wrote:
The Mahele was never great.
on October 27,2013 | 12:12PM
cojef wrote:
State can prevail if the "right of eminent domain" is used to secure the portion that used to be the long standing pathway for the public to access to the beach before it was closed off by the new owner in 2008. Simply it has been open to the public for ages and like squatter's right became public property.
on October 27,2013 | 10:27AM
Mythman wrote:
It's use for surfing (Mavericks?) might be a grandfathered prior use?
on October 27,2013 | 11:30AM
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